Sorting by Five Columns

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 7, 2015)

3

Excel includes a sorting feature that allows you to easily sort a data list by up to three columns. If you have a large or complex data list, you may want to sort by more than three columns, however. There are several ways you can accomplish this.

Assuming you have five columns you want sorted by, the first method is to just do two passes at sorting. If you want to sort the data in the order of columns A, B, C, D, and E, you would perform the first sort using columns C, D, and E. Once these are in order, sort by columns A and B. The result is that your entire data list is in order.

Closely related to this is the fact that you can use the sort tools on the toolbar to sort your five columns. First, choose a cell in column E, then click on either the Sort Ascending or Sort Descending tool. Repeat this process by selecting a cell in each of the other columns (D, C, B, and A), in turn, and clicking on the appropriate tool. At the end of this iterative process (which takes only five quick clicks of the sorting tools), your entire list is in the order you desire.

There is an important things to keep in mind when sorting as described here: The character of your list data can affect the quality of the sort performed. If your data contains empty cells, error values, or numbers formatted as text, then Excel may not sort the data in the method you expect. The solution is to "normalize" your data—for instance, making sure that numbers are really numbers and not numbers formatted as text—and then do the sort again.

Another solution is to create a "sorting column" for your data. This approach works great if your data is all text, or if you can easily convert it into a text-based format for the sorting. Under this scenario, you would combine the contents of columns A through E into column F, and then sort by a single column: F. You could use this type of formula in column F:

=A1 & B1 & C1 & D1 & E1

If one of the columns contains a date, you will need to convert the date to a consistent text format, as done with this formula:

=A1 & B1 & C1 & TEXT(D1,"yyyymmdd") & E1

If one of the columns contains numeric values, you can normalize them by using a similar TEXT function construct that pads the value with leading zeroes:

=A1 & TEXT(B1,"000000") & C1 & D1 & E1

If you do quite a bit of sorting, and you don't want to use Excel's built-in sorting routines, then you should investigate third-party sorting functions. Sorting algorithms are a fascinating branch of mathematics, and some very popular algorithms (such as shell sort, exchange sort, bubble sort, etc.) can be implemented through Excel functions. How those functions would be used on your system depends on the way they were implemented by their developer.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2255) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Error Opening Second Workbook

If you try to open a second workbook and you see an error message, it could be because of the way you are opening the ...

Discover More

Turning Off Smart Quotes for Specific Styles

Smart quotes can be helpful in making a great-looking document, but at times, they can be a real pain. Wouldn’t it be ...

Discover More

Stopping a Workbook from Persistently Auto-Loading

Excel has the capability to automatically open workbooks when you first start the program. You may not want to have one ...

Discover More

Solve Real Business Problems Master business modeling and analysis techniques with Excel and transform data into bottom-line results. This hands-on, scenario-focused guide shows you how to use the latest Excel tools to integrate data from multiple tables. Check out Microsoft Excel 2013 Data Analysis and Business Modeling today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Sorting Data Containing Merged Cells

When formatting the layout of your worksheet, Excel allows you to easily merge adjacent cells together. This can cause ...

Discover More

Sorting by Columns

When you think of sorting Excel data, it is likely that you think of sorting rows. Excel also allows you to sort by ...

Discover More

Fixing Odd Sorting Behavior

When you sort data that contains both numbers and text, you may not get exactly the result that you expected. To know ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 2 + 7?

2017-12-04 01:04:31

Jihad Alhalabi

Where and how can we use the formula (=A1 & B1 & C1 & D1 & E1) stated above?
I tried but could not get any kind of sorting


2016-05-24 07:37:26

Parth

Dear Sir,

I want to sort 6 columns with 50 rows each containing ticket no. (data is in number format). I need to sort these 300 data from top top bottom and left to right. How can I sort so that i get values in ascending order from cell A1 to A50 and continues to B1 and so on.

One thing I can do is to arrange all data in a single cell, sort it and then again break it into columns. But that is too much for me. Any other method to do it??

I need to do this so that I can print that data in a single sheet.


2015-10-18 07:50:17

liaqat ali

how do we sort MS WORD & MS EXCELL

REPLY me fast


This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the menu interface (Excel 97, Excel 2000, Excel 2002, or Excel 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.